We did not want it just to be about fundraising, we wanted the unit to “stick.”

What do you get when you combine student agency, math, literacy, social studies, art, design cycle, social-emotional curriculum, cross-divisional collaboration, and parent engagement?

The Quilt Makers Gift Project! An amazing interdisciplinary learning experience for grade 1 students.

This week I had the pleasure of learning more about this amazing, impactful, and intentional project from Ria, Lisa, Linda, Shannon, and Ritu.

The project has been ongoing for the past two years, but it all started from a lesson in Geometry connecting how to make quilts using shapes. However, it has transformed into a unit which encompasses all the elements listed above and continues to grow.

Without further ado here are their responses.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

Academically, we wanted them to see a real-life application of Geometry in the real world.

Additionally, for them to understand how they can use what they know in order to take action to feel empowered to impact the world they live in.

Lastly, we wanted them to understand three central themes from a socio-emotional curriculum which are empathy, connection, and gratitude.

2. What skills did you want your students to gain? 

We wanted students to improve their communication skills, more specifically how to find their voice and how to express their opinions to others.

Furthermore, the ability to use the design cycle to make a plan, iterate and carry it out.

Finally, the idea to be being open-minded through the process and to foster a “can do attitude” where they believed they can make big changes.

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

In its simplest form, we taught students how to compose and decompose 2D figures, and we just started with just paper.

They would still make the quilts, but each kid contributed a square and this where it would end.

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?


This spurred the question,

“How can we extend this unit?”

First, we extended the unit by connecting to a story about a woman who makes quilts for other people who really wants them. She makes one for a King, who earns a piece of the quilt each time he gives away a possession of his. By the end of the story he has no worldly possessions but is fulfilled and happy as he has a full quilt.

It was great, but then this lead to us asking more questions like,

“Who can we reach out to who might be able to make a quilt?”

Enter Ah Huang. She was a cleaner at the time we first started but also a seamstress who actually helped make the quilt.

More discussions and brainstorming sessions lead to connecting with Rosana Walsh in the Middle School. She facilitates the “Hats on Heads” project, where she went to Amman to give hats to refugee children, but also took the quilts the grade 1 students created. Rosana shared the story in Jordan, took pics with refugees, and came back and presented an age-appropriate keynote to the students on the impact of quilts they made.

It did not stop there, as an ex-SIS student who moved to HKIS, carried on the project and worked with his parents to take him to Amman to give another round of hats and quilts to the refugees.

He also took pictures and brought them back to share with grade 1 students. They actually watched the presentation of the trip about the refugees during pajama day with blankets. This was super relevant as the refugee children were in the cold, and the grade 1 students could see their quilts were being used.

This then prompted connections within Social Studies on how are we similar and different. Students learned more about Syria through games, foods, and sharing of cultures.

We wanted to highlight it was not just about giving but receiving as well. A main focus was on service, but we emphasized they could learn from the process as well. Also, tying in what it means to be a “global citizen.”

We did not want it just to be about charity or fundraising, we wanted the unit to “stick.”

This prompted us to make a change the following year where grade 1 students had to find ways to raise money for materials and sewing of the quilts.

Each student had to earn 25 RMB by completing five days of work. The money would pay for all labor and supplies. The crazy thing is many are surpassing the 25 RMB quota and actually earning much more. This showed the students were very invested in this project.

Worked ranged from playing musical instruments, bus games, making food and then selling, or selling clothes.

It has taken a lot of time and planning to make this project, but we wanted it to be intentional and give students agency through the process.

A huge part of this has been the home link, which only reinforces the importance of the project. The parents have been super supportive and are really pleased with how their children are taking part in such a meaningful project and are asking how they can do more.

Like we said, it has been a little different each year, some years a person goes to the refugee camps, while other years we look at how we can impact someone in the local community.

Additionally, we are looking at how we can incorporate art, understanding of materials and colors.

The possibilities are endless!


Any questions about service learning please visit or email anyone on the Grade 1 team.

The Quilt Maker – A book on service learning.

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